Miami Heat

Mailbag: Is a Heat trade coming before the deadline? A realistic look at the possibility

The weekly Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions.

If you weren’t able to ask one this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email me at achiang@miamiherald.com.

@conor_barkley: You think we make any trades before the deadline? If so, you think it will be for an All-Star type player?

@Timmaaay_: Likelihood of a trade this week?

@rcjmat: Any chance they make a move to try to reinvigorate the team? Everything feels stale lately.

@Jearias1884: Is there any chance to see some of these players getting traded? I mean I see other teams making moves just to clear room and get second-round picks, but obviously not the Heat who needs it the most.

Anthony Chiang: There’s always a chance for a trade, especially for a Heat team that’s dropped nine of its past 14, is three games below the .500 mark and currently faces a luxury tax bill of $9.7 million. It’s time to shake things up. Whether that means trading for a player who makes the roster better or simply shedding salary to reduce or eliminate the tax bill, there are various reasons a trade would make sense for the Heat entering Thursday’s deadline.

Here’s the issue, it takes at least two teams to make a trade. While the Heat may want to make changes, the trade value of a lot of its players just isn’t high right now. Four of Miami’s six biggest contracts (Hassan Whiteside/set to earn $27.1 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2020, Tyler Johnson/set to earn $19.2 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2020, James Johnson/set to earn about $15 million next season and $16 million in 2020-21 before becoming a free agent in 2021, and Dion Waiters/set to $12.1 million next season and $12.7 million in 2020-21 before becoming a free agent in 2021) would be difficult to trade at the moment without the Heat throwing in some type of sweetener in a deal. That sweetener could be in the form of a first-round pick or a young asset on a team-friendly contract like Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow or Bam Adebayo.

It would be interesting to see how many teams would be interested in Goran Dragic, the third-highest paid player on the Heat, if he wasn’t injured. Dragic is expected to return after the All-Star break following right knee surgery.

Remember, for trade purposes, the Winslow salary of $3.5 million this season would count as $10.6 million toward incoming salary for teams interested in acquiring the forward as part of the “Poison Pill Provision,” which would make it difficult to include Winslow in a trade until July 1. That higher amount reflects the average in the last year of his rookie contract and new extension but would complicate any trade involving him.

All of this is why a smaller cost-cutting move is probably more likely before Thursday’s deadline. Trading Wayne Ellington without taking any money back would get the Heat under the tax line. But this deal will be difficult to complete for two reasons:

1. Only six NBA teams can currently absorb Ellington’s $6.3 million salary without sending anything back in return: the Hornets, Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder, Kings and Wizards.

The Hornets would cross the luxury tax threshold by acquiring Ellington without sending money back to the Heat, which takes them out of the picture. The Thunder and Wizards are already in the tax, so they’re out, too.

So, that only leaves the Kings, Mavericks and Nuggets as realistic options.

2. Ellington can’t be traded this season without his permission because he signed a one-year deal and has full Bird Rights next summer. So Ellington would have to approve any trade.

To sum all of this up, the Heat may want to make a trade this week. But it’s not that easy. There are some obstacles it has to overcome to get a deal done, whether it’s a big move or a minor one.

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@NoeticNeek: Where’s the midrange game from the Heat? It’s either inside or chuck a three?

Anthony: You’re not wrong. The midrange shot is a smaller part of the Heat’s offense this season.

Just 11.4 percent of Miami’s shot attempts have come from the midrange this season compared to 16.9 percent last season. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the way the game is evolving, with the belief that the three-pointer and a dunk/layup are the two most efficient shots in the sport.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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